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Williams v. State

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

July 11, 2019

NICOLE WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF INDIANA, INDIANA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, PUCKETT, WEXFORD OF INDIANA, LLC, a DIVISION OF WEXFORD HEALTH SOURCES, INC., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

          James Patrick Hanlon, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Nicole Williams was contracted by Wexford of Indiana to work for the Indiana Department of Correction (the “IDOC”)[1]. Her work at the IDOC was effectively terminated when the IDOC barred Ms. Williams from its premises. In response, Ms. Williams brought an array of statutory and constitutional claims against Wexford, the IDOC, and Officer Shelby Puckett. Wexford was dismissed from the case, dkt. 59, while the IDOC and Officer Puckett have filed a motion to dismiss the claims, dkt. 34. For the reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part the motion to dismiss. Dkt. [34].

         I.

         Facts and Background

         In ruling on a motion brought under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court accepts and recites “the well-pleaded facts in the complaint as true.” McCauley v. City of Chicago, 671 F.3d 611, 616 (7th Cir. 2011).

         Ms. Williams is a white female who suffers from anxiety, depression, and PTSD stemming from prior sexual abuse. Dkt. 29 (Compl. ¶ 11). Ms. Williams was contracted by Wexford to work for the IDOC at its Plainfield Correctional Facility where a male coworker sexually harassed her during training. Id. (¶ 12). She filed a complaint regarding her coworker's harassment, but the IDOC failed to address her concerns. Id. (¶ 13). An African American employee later filed a sexual harassment complaint against the same coworker and the coworker was terminated. Id. (¶ 15). The African American employee was not gate locked or terminated. Id. (¶ 20).

         Subsequently, Ms. Williams made at least two complaints of sexual harassment against several inmates; the IDOC, again, failed to address her concerns. Id. (¶ 17).

         At one point, Ms. Williams was asked to corroborate a report filed by a corrections officer against an inmate, but she refused because the incident did not happen. Id. (¶ 14).

         Later, Ms. Williams was being sexually harassed by an inmate in the infirmary and a correctional officer refused to get involved. Id. (¶ 18). On September 25, 2017, the IDOC's Internal Affairs Department notified her that it would investigate the sexual harassment incident and placed her on unpaid suspension. Id. (¶ 19). About one week later, Officer Puckett, an officer within the Internal Affairs Department, entered a gate lock[2] order against her, which ended her employment. Id. (¶ 20).

         Believing that she had been discriminated against, Ms. Williams obtained two right-to-sue letters from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in February and October 2018. Id. (¶¶ 7, 8). Ms. Williams brought this suit after receiving the first letter, dkt. 1, and filed an amended complaint shortly after receiving the second letter, dkt. 29.

         In scatter-shot fashion[3], the amended complaint brings a multitude of claims against the IDOC and Officer Puckett alleging discrimination on the basis of race (Count I), color (Count II), and sex (Count III) in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq.; discrimination on the basis of disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. (Count IV); retaliation for filing sexual harassment complaints (Count V); and discrimination on the basis of race in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Count VI). Id. The amended complaint also brings a separate claim against Officer Puckett alleging violations of Ms. Williams' rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count VII). Id.

         The IDOC and Officer Puckett have filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Dkt. 34. In responding to the motion to dismiss, Ms. Williams voluntarily dismisses all claims under the ADA (Count IV), and Section 1981 (Count VI), as well as the Title VII claims against Officer Puckett set forth in Counts I, II, III, and V. Dkt. 39 at 5-6. Therefore, Counts IV and VI against the IDOC and Counts I, II, III, IV, V, and VI against Officer Puckett are dismissed.

         II.

         Applicable Law

         Defendants may move under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) to dismiss claims for “failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.” Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 12(b)(6). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a complaint must “contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A facially plausible claim is one that allows “the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id.

         When ruling on a 12(b)(6) motion, the Court will “accept the well-pleaded facts in the complaint as true, ” but will not defer to “legal conclusions and conclusory allegations merely reciting the elements of the claim.” McCauley, 671 F.3d at 616.

         III.

         Analysis

         Defendants identify the following bases in support of their motion to dismiss: (1) the discrimination claims against the IDOC should be dismissed because Ms. Williams was an independent contractor, not an employee; (2) the retaliation claim against the IDOC should be dismissed because Ms. Williams was an independent contractor and sovereign immunity bars liability; and (3) the Section 1983 claim ...


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